WHAT: Second round of FCS playoffs

WHERE: Alfond Stadium, Orono

KICKOFF: Noon Saturday

TV/WEB: ESPN3

ALL-TIME SERIES: First meeting

LAST WEEK: Jacksonville State defeated East Tennessee State, 34-27; Maine had a bye

WHEN MAINE HAS THE BALL: The Black Bears talk about doing the things they do. That means using the running game to set up the passing game. It’s imperative that Ramon Jefferson (698 rushing yards, five touchdowns) and Joe Fitzpatrick (388 yards, three touchdowns) provide an effective running threat. Maine is 7-0 when rushing for at least 100 yards in a game. That sets up QB Chris Ferguson and the play-action pass game. Ferguson has a lot of threats – WRs Earnest Edwards, Micah Wright, Jaquan Blair and Devin Young along with TE Drew Belcher – and is great at managing the passing game. He has only thrown eight interceptions, along with 14 touchdowns. Edwards is the guy who can break it on any play, but Wright is the guy who makes the clutch catches.

WHEN JACKSONVILLE STATE HAS THE BALL: The Gamecocks can pretty much do it all. QB Zerrick Cooper has thrown for 3,051 yards and 30 touchdowns. WR Josh Pearson has 1,061 receiving yards and 17 touchdown passes, while Jamari Hester has 739 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. But they also can run, averaging 209.5 yards per game. RB Jaelen Greene leads the team with 707 rushing yards, along with four touchdowns. The Gamecocks run the run-pass-option game as well as anyone and will take what the defense gives them. But they’re going to look to hit you with some quick strikes and have the talent to do it. In the cold weather, they may look to establish the run first.

KEY STAT: 20 – number of passes defended this year (including one interception) by Maine cornerback Manny Patterson, second in the nation among FCS players

OUTLOOK: This game will come to come down to which defense can impose its will. Jacksonville State comes in with the sixth-best offense in the nation among FCS schools, averaging 499 yards per game and scoring 41.1 points per game. Maine’s defense is ranked fourth in the nation, allowing only 278.8 yards per game, and second against the rush, allowing only 73.4 yards per game. Jacksonville State’s defense also is pretty good, ranking in the top 20 in four national categories. Both defenses like to put pressure on the quarterback and running game with their front seven, leaving the secondary in a lot of man-to-man coverage. Jacksonville State has 96 tackles for a loss this year, Maine 90. Maine has 40 sacks, the Gamecocks 26. Maine will have to get to Cooper early and try to knock him off his mark. If they can do that, the Black Bears can dictate the tempo. Offensively, Maine has to have good results on first and second down. The Gamecocks lead the nation in third-down defense, allowing teams to convert only 25 percent.

OF NOTE: This is the second home playoff game in Maine history. The Black Bears lost 41-27 to New Hampshire in 20-13. … Maine is 3-7 all-time in the playoffs; Jacksonville State is 21-17, including 6-8 in the FCS playoffs. It is the Gamecocks’ sixth consecutive year in the FCS playoffs. … The winner of this game will play the winner of the Southeast Missouri State-Weber State game. … The Black Bears are expected to be healthy, with QB Chris Ferguson (shoulder), DL Charles Mitchell (ankle) and RB Joe Fitzpatrick (various aches) all ready. … Jacksonville State needs 12 yards to go over 6,000 in offense on the season. Maine has 3,694 yards.


Comments are not available on this story.